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Tips for Working With a Recruiter in the Nursing Field

NurseJournal Staff
Updated November 15, 2022
Working with an RN recruiter can ease the job hunt and help you find the perfect job. Learn how to work with nursing headhunters for the best results.
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African-American male recruiter dressed in business attire. He is sitting in an office chatting with a job-seeker.Credit: fizkes | iStock | Getty Images Plus

Job hunting is stressful, even in a strong market. It can be hard to learn about prospective employers, especially in a different region or state. Organizations may not even post every available position.

For those struggling with the job process, nursing headhunters can help you find the right openings, guide you through the interview process, and provide valuable advice.

Working with a registered nurse (RN) recruiter can save you time and effort, but it comes with disadvantages as well. This article can help you understand how nurse recruiters work and how to make the relationship benefit you most.

How to Find a Nurse Recruiter

Nurse recruiter duties consist of matching job seekers with employers. This means they need to:

  • check-circleKnow the employer and job in question
  • check-circleIdentify candidates
  • check-circleDetermine if it’s likely to be a good match
  • check-circleHelp both the employer and job hunter navigate applications, interviewing, and making a decision

You can either reach out to a recruiter or wait for one to find you. Nursing headhunters search for candidates on general job and career sites, like LinkedIn and Indeed, and professional association career boards that host resumes. They also attend conferences and professional networking events in nursing.

Maximize your chances of being found by posting your resume and keeping it current on career sites and association boards. Attend networking events. You can also look for recruiter directories, but some charge a fee. Building a nursing network on LinkedIn can be helpful too.

Review your professional profile from an RN recruiter’s perspective. Does it show that you are active professionally, improving in your job, and growing your knowledge base? Do your other public profiles, including social media, increase or reduce a potential employer’s confidence in your professionalism? Polish your nursing resume and profile before actively seeking a recruiter.

What to Know About Working With a Nurse Recruiter

A reputable RN recruiter does not require a fee from the job hunter. In fact, if they ask for a fee, this is a warning sign. Most recruiters either work full time for the employer, or the employer pays them by placement, typically a percentage of your first year’s salary.

Be aware that the recruiter’s best interests should align with yours, but they aren’t necessarily identical. Some aim for quantity of placements rather than quality and are not concerned about a long-term match, for example.

In-house recruiters work for the same organization for which they recruit. This means they know the organization well. Other RN headhunters work for staffing agencies with a broader reach than in-house RN recruiters. However, depending on the size of the agency and the commission they’ll earn, you might not be their top priority. An independent recruiter typically gives you the most personalized attention, but they don’t have the reach of a staffing agency.

Selecting the right RN recruiter depends on your goals and career stage. If you want somebody to provide more personalized attention, choose an independent recruiter. If you want access to as many openings as possible, a larger staffing agency might be the best choice.

The following factors are key to building a positive relationship with your nurse recruiter:

  • Connections: Recruiters are well connected. Make sure that they put their networking skills to good use.
  • Experience: No one wants to serve as the “guinea pig” for a recruiter’s first placement. Look for recruiters with a solid track record in the nursing field.
  • Compensation: Determine whether a nursing recruiter receives payment as a retainer or on contingency. This could affect their motivation to get you a good versus great job. They should understand why you might ask how they get paid.
  • Placement Record: Placement is a major part of RN recruiters’ jobs, so recruiters should share their results with you. Seek nursing recruiters with a high success rate.
  • Preferred Contact: Try to streamline communication with your recruiter. Make sure their preferred method (email or phone, for example) matches yours.

Initial Interview With a Nursing Recruiter

RN recruiters screen and interview candidates as part of their daily job responsibilities. Many recruiters do a phone interview with a job seeker before scheduling an in-person screening. Some prefer to set up a face-to-face meeting right away.

A nursing recruiter should put you at ease, be tactful yet truthful, and share in your job-search approach. Developing rapport now can help your working relationship later.

Your first meeting with a recruiter is an opportunity to discuss your short- and long-term career goals. This will help to ensure a recruiter has the best understanding of the type of job you are seeking. You will also want to discuss your ideal salary including benefits and your preferred working environment.

An experienced RN recruiter knows that placing you in a good job benefits all involved.

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The Job Interviewing Process

The process of interviewing for a job through a recruiter differs depending on where and how the recruiter works. In-house recruiters will schedule the job interview between their employer and a potential employee.

A recruiter working for an outside agency may direct you to the employer’s hiring manager or human resources. You should not expect a recruiter to coach you on how to interview for a job, but some will provide general tips.

Most RN recruiters continue their services long after your initial job interview. The recruiter may check references, submit feedback, and give an opinion on final selections. On behalf of the job seeker, recruiters also keep nursing candidates informed of the decision-making process.

The involvement of a nurse recruiter in the interviewing and selection process may differ from one client to another. Recruiters never make the final decision about who gets hired. Check for any latest developments with your recruiter once a week.

Is Working With a Nurse Recruiter Right for Me?

Working with an RN recruiter means entrusting part of your career development to another person. This comes with many advantages and disadvantages. Consider these pros and cons before working with nursing headhunters.

Advantages of Working With a Recruiter

Recruiters can save you time and effort. They can also give you access to jobs you wouldn’t otherwise learn about.

  • check-circleRecruiters know local employers, especially valuable if you’re relocating to an unfamiliar area.
  • check-circleNursing recruiters have access to jobs not listed publicly.
  • check-circleRecruiters can help you customize your nursing resume, application, and interview with exclusive information.
  • check-circleNursing headhunters save you time in researching which companies are hiring.
  • check-circleRN recruiters have experience and knowledge of which job seekers match best with different organizations.

Disadvantages of Working With a Recruiter

There are pitfalls working with an RN recruiter. Some of these are specific to a certain kind of recruiter. Other cons apply to all recruiters.

  • x-circleNursing headhunters might tell you what they think you want to hear about an employer, especially if the employer has difficulty hiring and retaining nurses.
  • x-circleBecause employers pay external RN recruiter fees, going through a recruiter makes you a more expensive candidate to hire than one who applies directly.
  • x-circleExternal nursing headhunters get paid only if they place you in a job and might not care about the fit. However, some may receive incentives for long-term placements.
  • x-circleAn in-house RN recruiter might have an incentive to negotiate a lower salary than you’re worth.
  • x-circleEven the best RN recruiter won’t know you and your goals the way you do, so they might overlook your dream career if you entrust your entire job search to them.

Tips for Working With a Nursing Recruiter

Many of the rules that apply to job hunting apply to working with recruiters: dress appropriately, don’t speak negatively of past jobs or colleagues, customize your resume, research the organization, and be courteous to everybody you encounter during your job hunt.

Consider these additional tips for working with nursing headhunters:

  1. Determine and communicate your professional development goals. An RN recruiter should know which employers will support employee professional development with time off or tuition reimbursement and which will not.
  2. Tell your nursing recruiter what you’re looking for in an employer and what’s a dealbreaker. Figure out what’s important and what’s optional.
  3. Ask your nursing network for recruiter recommendations and introductions, especially if a job is a good match. Many recruiters keep active files of candidates, even if they don’t have a good match right then.
  4. Be aware that a recruiter will do a lot of the work in job hunting, but not all the work. Learn for yourself about their recommended employers and jobs. Research salary ranges in organizations that interest you, so you can tell if a salary sounds too low.
  5. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For example, if a nursing headhunter says they can get you a much higher salary than what is standard or says there are no downsides to a particular job, be suspicious.

Frequently Asked Questions About Working With a Nursing Recruiter

How many times do you meet with a recruiter, on average?

Recruiters will schedule a welcome interview to get to know you and your job goals. Most recruiters will measure your experience and professionalism before considering you for a position.

Unless you discuss another option with your RN recruiter, plan to connect weekly.

What kind of qualifications do recruiters typically have?

A qualified recruiter may study human resources, psychology, sociology, or marketing. All must have exceptional internet, customer service, onboarding, and training skills.

Can you work with multiple recruiters at the same time?

While some job seekers work with multiple recruiters at the same time, many professionals advise against this. It can promote a lack of transparency between candidates and recruiters. Some nursing headhunters require exclusivity.

What are the signs of a good recruiter?

Good recruiters possess strong organizational and communication skills. Recruiters should and always remain professional. You should feel as though your recruiter keeps you informed and stays on top of the jobs they submit for you.

What are the signs of a substandard recruiter?

Substandard recruiters are unorganized and possess poor communication skills. Red flags include pressuring a job seeker to take a bad offer, submitting your resume for jobs unrelated to your field, or asking you to lie on your resume.

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